Movie Mom

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Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

John Wick
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

23 Blast
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for some teen drinking
Release Date:
October 24, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

A Walk to Remember

posted by rkumar
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2002

I got more enjoyment out of the squeals of joy from the 9-14-year-olds in the audience than from anything on the screen in this syrupy re-tread of “Love Story” set in a Beaufort, North Carolina high school.

Teen Beat pin-ups Mandy Moore and Shane West star as high school seniors Jamie and Landon. Landon is what passes for a glamorous bad boy in Beaufort. He and his friends spend most of their time partying and congratulating themselves on being better than anyone else. They play a prank on a boy who commits the great sin of thinking he might be worthy of hanging out with them. When the boy is seriously injured, Landon is sentenced to participation in school activities: tutoring a disadvantaged kid, sweeping up, and starring in the school play(!).

Landon keeps running into Jamie, a plain, Bible-toting girl who always wears the same sweater and does not care what other people think about her. He asks her for help learning his lines. When he sees her for the first time on opening night, all dolled up to play a nightclub singer (apparently their play had no dress rehearsals), it turns out that she is very pretty. He finds himself drawn to her, and, through her, drawn to a better notion of his own potential.

There is nothing that anyone over the age of 15 hasn’t seen a dozen times, including the plain girl who loosens her hair and turns out to be beautiful, the reunion with the estranged father, and that old favorite, movie star’s disease, in which the actress becomes more beautiful as she gets sicker. The direction, cinematography, and performances are barely adequate, but the Beaufort setting is lovely and the movie manages a couple of affecting moments. But “A Walk to Remember” is a movie to forget.

Parents should know that the movie has very strong language for a PG, with many “s-words.” Before Landon cleans up his act, he drinks and drives. It is clear that Jamie is very principled and their only physical involvement is some chaste kisses. At one point, she asks, “Are you trying to seduce me?” and he replies, “Are you seducible?” She says she is not and he respects her for it. Landon’s best friend is black (Al Thompson as Eric), but the character’s dialogue is so stereotyped that he seems like the “token black guy” in “Not Another Teen Movie.” He and Landon have an elaborate special friendship handshake, and there is an unintentionally hilarious moment when, after an exchange of sympathy and support, they somberly go into their handshake moves.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether they have lists of things they want to do before they die, and how we can help each other realize our dreams. How can we tell that Landon was not happy when he thought he was better than Jamie? How did she show him that he could be something more? When should we care about what other people think of us, and when shouldn’t we?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Love Story and a better performance from Mandy Moore in The Princess Diaries.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:1945

Plot: Francie Nolan (Peggy Ann Garner), an imaginative and sensitive girl, lives with her family in a Brooklyn tenement. She adores her father, Johnny (James Dunn), a dreamer with a drinking problem, and respects but resents her down-to-earth mother, Katie (Dorothy McGuire). The family struggles to rise from poverty. Francie and her brother must each read a page aloud each night from the Bible and Shakespeare, and their parents are intent on their becoming the first family members to graduate from grade school. Francie dreams of going to a better school in a wealthier neighborhood, and her father makes it possible by telling the principal that she is moving in with a fictitious wealthy aunt. A teacher there encourages her to pursue her love of writing. But Katie is pregnant again, and decides that Francie should leave school. When Johnny dies, Francie is devastated. She is angry with her mother, feeling that her mother did not love Johnny enough, and does not love her enough either. But when her mother has the baby, Francie sees that she loves them both, and that Katie hates having to be practical and “hard.” A kind policeman asks permission to court Katie, and Francie knows that their life will be easier, and that her father and what they shared will be with her always.

Discussion: This family has a great deal of love but a lot of difficulty showing it. Although they clearly love each other, Johnny and Katie have too many shattered expectations to accept tenderness from each other, as we see when he comes home with the food from the party and sees her with her hair down, and when she tries to tell him how much she likes hearing him sing “Annie Laurie.”

They have trouble being honest and direct about their circumstances and their feelings. They have to move to a cheaper apartment, but insist — to themselves and to everyone else — that they are doing it to get more sunlight. When Katie decides that she wants her sister back in her life, she sends the message via the insurance collector. When Francie tries raising the subject of the school she wants to attend in a roundabout way, Katie tells her to speak more directly. But Johnny lets her tell him in her own way, and, over Katie’s objections, makes it possible for her dream to come true. Francie has a hard time understanding that Katie loves her and relies on her, until Katie is in labor and almost does not know what she is saying. This is a good opportunity to talk about the ways that families do (and do not) communicate with each other. Older kids may also want to discuss the impact that Johnny’s drinking and unreliability had on Katie and why it was different for Francie.

Questions for Kids:

· What does the title refer to?

· What did Francie’s teacher mean about the difference between imagination and pipe dreams?

· Why did the members of the family have such a hard time talking to each other about what mattered to them?

· Why does the family use the word “sick” to describe Johnny’s alcoholism? Why does Johnny seem so sad when Francie talks with him about being “sick”?

· Why was it so important to Kate that the death certificate be changed?

Connections: James Dunn won an Oscar for his performance. Joan Blondell appeared as a brassy second lead in a number of early musicals, including “Footlight Parade” and “Gold Diggers of 1933.” Peggy Ann Garner is also lovely as the young “Jane Eyre.”

Activities: Kids should read the book, by Betty Smith, who based it on her own childhood.

A Room With a View

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
Movie Release Date:1986

Plot: Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) arrives in Italy with her strait-laced aunt Charlotte (Maggie Smith). Disappointed at not getting the room with a view they had been promised when making their reservations at the inn, they are not sure whether it is proper to accept the offer of Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliot) and his son George (Julian Sands), staying at the same inn, to switch rooms so they may have a view after all. Reassured by the clergyman, Mr. Beebe (Simon Callow), they agree.

Later, out in the countryside, George impetuously kisses Lucy, and her aunt, horrified, whisks her back to England. There, Lucy is engaged to Cecil, a prissy man, who likes Lucy’s “freshness” and “subtlety,” and kisses her lightly, only after asking her permission. Mr. Beebe says that “If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays (the piano), it will be very exciting–both for us and for her.” He clearly does not think the engagement to Cecil is evidence that she has.

The Emersons move into a cottage near the Honeychurch family, invited by Cecil, who does not realize that Lucy knows them. Lucy is distressed, partly because she wanted two elderly ladies she met in Italy to live there, and partly because having George so near is disturbing to her. She does her best to resist her attraction to him and to the passionate reality that he offers, but ultimately breaks the engagement to Cecil, marries George, and returns with him to the room with a view.

Discussion: Lush natural settings have a powerful affect on fictional characters, especially those in love, or wanting to fall in love. In Shakespeare, lovers go to the woods to straighten things out. In the British literature of the 19th and early 20th century, they often go to Italy, which represents freedom from repression, with “Enchanted April” and this film as prime examples. The wheat field where George kisses Lucy is in sharp contrast to the manicured lawns of the Honeychurch home, as the precise and cerebral Cecil is in contrast to the passionate George.

This is a movie about having the courage to face one’s feelings, and to risk intimacy, fully knowing and being known by another person. George never hesitates to take that risk. Cecil, sensitively played by Daniel Day-Lewis as a full character and not a caricature of a fop, has feelings but will never be able to “take to live as (he) plays.” Clearly, he does care deeply for Lucy, but he does not have the passionate nature to respond to hers fully, as George does. As George says, Cecil “is the sort who can’t know anyone intimately, least of all a woman,” someone who wants Lucy as an ornament, perhaps to enjoy her passionate nature by proxy, not realizing that his own proximity is likely to stifle it. George wants Lucy “to have ideas and thoughts and feelings, even when I hold you in my arms.”

Questions for Kids:

· Mr. Emerson refers to a “Yes! And a Yes! And a Yes” at the “side of the Everlasting Why.” What does this mean?

· What leads Lucy to break her engagement to Cecil? What leads her to accept her feelings for George?

· What is the meaning of the title?

Connections: Some of the themes of this movie are reminiscent of movies like “I Know Where I’m Going,” “Born Yesterday,” “Sabrina,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “It Happened One Night,” and others in which the leading lady ends up marrying someone other than the man she planned to marry, choosing true love and intimacy over comfort and a relationship that seemed safer.

Activities: Teenagers might enjoy the book by E.M. Forster, and some of his other books, including Howard’s End.

A River Runs Through It

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Movie Release Date:1992

Writer Norman Maclean’s autobiographical story of growing up in Montana with his brother Paul begins, “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing.”

Their Presbyterian minister father taught Norman and his brother Paul schoolwork, religion, and fishing as though they were all one subject. He was strict and thorough in all of those lessons. Reverand Mclean believed that no one who did not know how to fish properly should be permitted to disgrace a fish by catching it. He used a metronome to time their four-count stroke between the positions of ten o’clock and two o’clock.

Norman, though more sober, loved the wild streak in Paul that made him “tougher than any man alive” but feared that it would destroy him. And it did. While Norman becomes a professor of English literature and falls in love with Jessie Burns (Emily Lloyd), Paul becomes a reporter and gets into trouble drinking and gambling. Norman is called by the police to get Paul out of jail, and ultimately, he is called again when Paul is killed.

One of the tragic realizations of growing up is that you can love someone without being able to understand or save them. Like Norman, Jessie has a brother who is self-destructive, though his part of the story is played more for comedy. In today’s terms, Jessie’s mother would be considered an enabler because she does not impose any limits on her son, and does not insist that he recognize the consequences of his behavior.

Parents should know that the movie has some mature material, including family tragedy, alcohol abuse, a sexual situation (nudity), and prostitutes. A Native American woman is insulted by bigots.

Families who see this movie should discuss what they would do in Norman’s position. What would you have said to Paul? When? Why didn’t Norman say those things? If you were Jessie, what would you say to Neal? Why was it important to have Neal’s story in the movie? What does Norman mean when he says that his father saw no difference between religion and flyfishing?

Director Redford also addresses the theme of loving families who do not communicate pain well, with one member of the family suffering the consequences in two other movies, “Ordinary People” and “Quiz Show.”

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